He called the events in Khurmatu since October 16 “ethnic cleansing” and one that they are following with great concern.
Maliki served as Prime Minister of Iraq for two terms from 2006-2014. Under his tenure the central government cut the Kurdish share of budget in early-2014 over the KRG’s plans to export oil independent of Baghdad. He deployed the Iraqi security forces to the borders of the Kurdistan Region at least twice when he was the PM, and became the first senior Iraqi politician to threaten Kurdistan with the use of force against the Iraqi-opposed Kurdish vote on independence.
In a wide-ranging interview, he told Rudaw presenter Ranj Sangawi that he wants both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to get over what happened in the past, including the disagreement over the Kurdish vote.
“We have to open a new page,” Maliki said. He said the two sides must commit to the Iraqi constitution that best serves the interest of all the people of Iraq, including the Kurdish population.
If the problems between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments remain unresolved before the Iraqi elections scheduled for May 12, not only the Kurds, but “all of Iraq will lose,” Maliki said, who is also the head of the ruling Dawa Party.
He said he was hopeful that there are efforts in place, including by the Iraqi presidency, which push for the talks to happen at the earliest time.
He said if the Kurdistan Region offers “guarantees” or hands over the KRG’s oil export to the Government of Iraq, even if it were as low as 100,000 barrels, the Iraqi government would then be prepared to send the KRG’s share of the budget — per the population.
He defended the move to cut the Iraqi budget to the KRG in light of the Kurdish oil exports, but said this has to end because the Kurdish people have suffered a lot in Iraq, including suffering the Kurdish genocide, Anfal, under the former Iraqi regime.
Kurdish officials, notably the former Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani, had called the budget cuts, which were introduced under Maliki but was then continued under the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, equal to the Kurdish genocide.
Maliki described the events since October 16 in the diverse-town of Tuz Khurmatu, near Kirkuk, as “ethnic cleansing.”
Tens of thousands of Kurdish population in Khurmatu were displaced as the result of the Iraqi takeover of Khurmatu, supported by the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, something labeled by the Kurdish parliament as “genocide,” and “ethnic cleaning.”
With regard to the Iraqi elections, he said that victory over ISIS, and being able to end the Kurdish referendum are not enough for Iraqi officials to claim that they have an easy ride to to win the May elections when the Iraqi people head to the polls.
The following is the full transcript of the interview:
Rudaw: A political tension has overwhelmed the entire Iraq. What is your message to Iraqis and the Kurdistan Region as an initiative to engage in national reconciliation and dispel this atmosphere of discord?
Nouri al-Maliki: This is a beautiful, important and decisive question about this stage to Iraq as a country and Iraqi partners in this country. It is normal to benefit from the past, but we shouldn’t get stuck in the past and our stance shouldn’t be rusted by the past especially when we realize that these stances have led to gaps and shortages. We should draw on our stance and benefit from it to reheat and re-deepen relations and brotherhood of the nation of the united Iraq whether it be in Iraq as a whole including all its communities or in the Kurdistan Region, who are brothers of their Iraqi brothers.
The constitution is the same for all.
Iraq passed crisis after crisis. We faced more than one crisis since the collapse of the regime, and witnessed more than one effort to foil the political process. But because of the assistance that existed among the different communities, and the Kurds are an essential community in confronting this challenge, we could defeat many plans and efforts to foil the political process. We could help one another and write a constitution for the country. This constitution is a high criterion for a complete organization of relations between all parties. We also could end terrorist organizations which emerged under the name of confronting the conqueror. Al-Qaida came and then ISIS and then this political problem.
I don’t want to issue clean checks for the political landscape because they dealt with some of these issues without strategic calculations. A politician should not deal with political events according to the timing in which the events happen. Rather, he should also look into the future. He should ask: is the future in the interests of this idea which is at play now or the future needs something deeper. Our future in Iraq needs relations
If the constitution states that responsibility for border gates lies with the central government, this should be abided by
The constitution is the same for all. This reality should be imposed and deepened so that the state is built on the basis of citizenship because such a state doesn’t mean that the state doesn’t respect the communities or nations who built the state. On the contrary, because of a democratic system and depending on the constitution voted by Iraqi nation, these communities will be protected from aggression and defended. I don’t want to stick to the past and record many observations about it, on what they did in the Region and what happened in some parts of Iraq to try to undermine and foil the political process and the demonstrations and what created this sectarian situation. Rather, I say thank God all this is finished and Iraq survived.
So do you think if we speak about the past, the constitution was violated by the Iraqi and Kurdistan governments, which is why you support constructive dialogue?
I don’t want to open this dossiers to who violated the constitution. The constitution was violated but I don’t want to touch on these details as to what extent it was violated by the Region. A mistake occurred. What is
What is the reason behind delaying talks until after elections?
You want to turn a new page and want to have constructive dialogue, but do you feel that there is response from Baghdad toward the initiatives made by the Kurdistan Region to start such dialogue?
Now that we are done with the issue of separation and referendum, which harmed the unity of Iraqi nation, there is a strategic way ahead of us which is the constitution and dialogue within the framework of the constitution. I openly call on the central and regional governments to start dialogue in order to solve the problems on the basis of the constitution. That is, we will give what the constitution gives and take what it takes. In order to do this, both parties should accept the constitution as a basis to resolve the problems. If the constitution states that responsibility for border gates lies with the central government, this should be abided by.
If the constitution states that the ministry of transportation is responsible for airports, it should be so. If the constitution states that the Region should be a partner in revenues and the share of the Region should be
the referendum and its results are over, it is now up to the central government to start dialogue and invite the region
given according to the rate of population, this should be so. I think we should return to the constitution and dialogue. No excuses for not having dialogue remain. The issue of referendum is over, the federal court has passed a ruling and the regional government has accepted the verdict. The ruling by the court ended all efforts for separation whether in Kurdistan, west or south. Iraq cannot be divided, nor states or semi-states can emerge in Iraq according to the constitution.
Now that this issue has finished, Kurds and Arabs in this country should live together on the basis of the constitution and benefit for it and we should restore our good relations. It is not difficult to go back to what we were supposed to return. The error that happened pushes us to come back to the right way and paves the way so that all the communities of Iraqi nation reach the best stage in order to deal with one another in a healthy manner.
There is a position that says when Iraq speaks about the constitution; it doesn’t view it as one package. Rather, it wants only the parts in favor of Baghdad to be implemented and parts in favor of Kurdistan not be implemented. Do you think this thinking could change in the future and what you said will reflect on Iraq’s new politics now and after elections are held?
I call for this to start from now on before elections are held. I can’t see any excuse to delay talks until after elections. We should start having dialogue now as we have accepted the constitution and dialogue and stopped incorrect routes. We should start dialogue on the basis of a shared feeling for the national relation and partnership that gathers us. What is the reason behind delaying talks until after elections? The situation of the
this logic shouldn’t be dominant in doing politics with the Region which is part of Iraq and Kurdish nation is part of Iraqi nation
You are known as a frank person. Who do you think is the one who is playing and doesn’t want to have the dialogue which Nouri al-Maliki and many others are calling for? The KRG, US, France, UK, Germany and others are all calling for dialogue, yet no talks are being held. Why?
The central government’s condition for dialogue was previously a cancellation of the referendum by the Regional government. This was a desire which might have been correct because talks could not have been held on the basis of the constitution of a united Iraq while the region was moving toward separation. Now that the federal court has passed a ruling and the regional government has accepted it, the referendum and its results are over, it is now up to the central government to start dialogue and invite the region to review all the outstanding problems they have been suffering from in the interests of solving the problems and shortages. I think this wouldn’t take long and the government will play this role soon.
You didn’t answer my question. What is the purpose behind delaying talks? It’s said this is intended to win votes. Do you think parties that are against the Kurds will win more votes?
No, no. We don’t support this logic that those who are more against Kurds will win more votes. After what happened, Kurds will come back as partners and brothers in a normal way. It is not true that those who oppose
reconciliations with Kurds should happen in the direction of building a stable country
Who will lose by delaying talks?
All of Iraq will lose by delaying talks. We never want talks be delayed since there is willing. We will all oppose the party that rejects the constitution, if during the talks we realized that articles of the constitution or its framework was being denied.
In the last statement on the end of the war on ISIS, you didn’t forget to mention Peshmerga, this was expected in Kurdistan. President Barzani had a role in 2010 in national reconciliations in Iraq and Mam Jalal continued to play this role. Would you take the initiative for national reconciliation?
When I spoke about Peshmerga in the fight against ISIS, I didn’t do something good for the Peshmerga without any return, because they played their part in the fight. Tribes, Hashd, army and police forces took part in
I am the staunchest supporter of holding elections on time.
In the policy-design council and presidential council, we have said that we should benefit from what happened so that we move ahead toward a future in which real and fundamental reconciliation among Iraqi communities and in Iraq’s political process takes place. I think no one will deny the basis of reconciliation and settling the problems. We had an initiative in the National Alliance for a national settlement which is not only for the Shiite and Sunni Arabs. Rather, it is for all the communities of Iraqi nation and Kurdish nation is part of this structure.
That is why reconciliations with Kurds should happen in the direction of building a stable country. We the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis shed much blood and went through a lot of hardship. The
the majority in the meeting held by the three presidencies were in favor of holding elections
The three presidencies held a meeting on the problems of Iraq. But not every party took part in the meeting. Is it true you were against delaying the election in the meeting?
I am the staunchest supporter of holding elections on time. There might be some people saying on the surface they want elections, but deep down their heart, they don’t want elections. I am for elections on the surface and in heart because I know the result of delaying them will be destructive to the political process. If we don’t hold elections and there is no peaceful power transfer, how can we have a new government and parliament? Other national issues were discussed in the meeting held by the three presidencies, but the main topic was holding elections.
There were different opinions in the meeting. There were some who said that we could not hold elections because of current conditions, IDPs, instability and situations in Kurdistan. There
First of all, the Kurdish nation is our nation.
The parliament should vote on this decision and it should then be returned to the president and then a presidential decree should be issued for it. We don’t know whether the parliament will accept this date or whether it will remain between the government which wants elections to be held on May 12 and the parliament which might not accept this date. I am frankly telling you that the majority in the meeting held by the three presidencies were in favor of holding elections. But the matter wasn’t settled. This should be settled when the parliament meets.
What is the importance of holding elections to you, and what can it solve in future Iraq? What do you want to happen in future Iraq, after elections are held?
I and any other politician participating in the political process and who believe in democracy and peaceful transfer of power will take elections to be very important. The way elections are
We don’t have a section called salary cut. Rather, we have shares, which is 17 percent given to the region and they will decide on spending
held and its outcome reflect the political process. I support the idea of political majority which doesn’t mean the majority of Shiites, Sunnis, Arabs or Kurds. Rather, it is a majority that consists of Shiites, Sunnis, Arabs, Kurds, Christians, Turkmen, Shabaks, Sabians and Yazidis. How is this political majority formed? It surely can be formed through elections.
If people understand the importance of solving this problem which has been there since the new Iraqi state was formed, which is called power-sharing, it is bad and has never given us a stable political system or government. Then we should get rid of it within a democratic framework. Democracy has it that whoever has won political majority can form the government; the rest will become opposition in the parliament. Getting a political majority should be through elections. Peaceful transfer of power can only be done through elections. If elections are not held, we will fall into a constitutional tunnel that will have no solution except if the UN interferes.
In the past, even when you had disagreements with the Kurdistan Region, situations didn’t escalate to the extent of cutting its medicine supply or resorting to current mechanisms of collective punishment of its people. Is this collective punishment a tactic or just political morality on your side?
First of all, the Kurdish nation is our nation. I have told Kurdish leaders that whatever has been spent on Kurds has not been wasted even it was more than needed. Kurds have gone through pain and made sacrifices throughout history, starting from Anfal to the chemical attack and mountain fighting. But when we enter a constitutional state in which relations between
They will receive their 17 percent share whether they sell 100,000 or 1 million barrels.
Kurds will get their 17 percent share which was decided before. Now the government says its population is less than this. This question has been left for the parliament. We don’t have anything in the constitution under the name of salaries of employees’ or Peshmerga. We only have it stated that the region’s share is 17 percent of overall budget. This 17 percent will be given to the region which will then be using it to pay salaries of employees, Peshmerga, reconstruction, architecture, agriculture and industry. Some Kurdish politicians very unfortunately used the question of the budget badly, saying that the government has cut our salary budget.
We don’t have a section called salary cut. Rather, we have shares, which is 17 percent given to the region and they will decide on spending it themselves to pay salaries or other fund other things. In return for this, the region should send the income it makes out of the oil it produces for state budget. In other words, they given the oil they have and receive 17 percent of the
We will not accept from the government to violate the rights of the Kurds
They will receive their 17 percent share whether they sell 100,000 or 1 million barrels. This ties the structure of the state by collecting all the revenues and distributing them on the basis of population rate. So, we don’t have something called salary and medicine cuts. The region has unfortunately been selling oil for nearly four years and not putting its income into state budget. That is why it is normal for the government and parliament when they set the budget, they see that the rate of future income from the region is zero, and then they will put its rate of budget as zero. Whom this will affect? Kurdish people, Peshmerga and employees.
That is why brothers in the region should open up and work within a legal and constitutional framework. The region should send its oil income even if it is 100,000 barrels, it is still acceptable, then they will receive their complete share because the Iraqi nation whether Kurdish or Arabic is entitled to benefit equally from state budget.
So, you don’t support budget and medicine cuts then, something practiced by Iraq nowadays. Are you trying to open doors for reconciliations and passing this stage?
I am against the cutting of Kurdistan shares, but we have to be clear and open that this can be done if the region sends its income. If these revenues are sent, the government should send the region’s share in full and care about the region like other parts of Iraq.
Many people were impressed by Mam Jalal’s performance in Iraq. The KRG has taken the initiative for dialogue and you are seeking national reconciliations. Why don’t you become a referee and explain in a news conference?
We had a meeting at the presidential palace on how to break the impasse between the region and central government. We then called on the president of the republic Dr Fuad Masum to
It is morally, nationally and religiously inappropriate to hurt the Kurds in order to win votes.
If Iraq doesn’t respond to this, will you as Nouri al-Maliki who has big influence due to your past even without any official positions, sit and watch events on television or take a stance on this matter?
We believe in the integrity of Iraq and unity of Iraqi nation including Kurdish nation. We will not stop, but continue in bringing perspectives close to one another and finding solutions to
All Iraqis are equal, whether they are Kurds, Yazidis, Muslims — Shiites or Sunnis.
So you are against the idea of hurting the Kurds as a tool to win votes in elections?
It is morally, nationally and religiously inappropriate to hurt the Kurds in order to win votes. Rights shouldn’t be obtained by unjust means. Political processes cannot be run this way, by winning votes through unjust punishment of a nation. Real political process which we should learn is such that appeals to the hearts of the people by delivering projects and solving problems, rather than complicating problems to benefit from the pressure put on some Kurdish leaders.
What do you think will be the stance of the US, UK, France and Germany on Iraq?
As far as I have heard, according to official statements made by the US, UK, EU countries, Arabic and Islamic countries, and also statements made by people like us, they all stress the
We should cooperate to start a national project that respects foreign countries but prevents us from being their extensions and accessories in Iraq.
People have become fed up of sectarian war and ongoing disagreements between Erbil and Baghdad. Can you as big Shiite parties reach an agreement with big Kurdish parties on a mechanism for political coordination and resolving the crises?
This is surely doable and the respected, friendly and fraternal parties you mentioned should work together in the direction of building new coordination and cooperation, so that we build a
Iraqis are about to lose hope gradually because of the piling up of the problems. We should cooperate with one another
All Iraqis are equal, whether they are Kurds, Yazidis, Muslims — Shiites or Sunnis. This is the duty which we are working on and about which we are talking to our brothers and through you, I turn to Kurdish movements and parties, starting from the KDP to PUK, Gorran, Islamic Group and other Kurdish parties, I call on them to take steps toward this national project which gives rights and prevents harm to those who are partners in this country.
What are the responsibilities of Maliki, Barzani, Mrs Hero, Omar Sayd Ali, Amar al-Hakim and other leaders in this national project, which you spoke about?
Because we regard our movements as Iraqi regardless of our national identities, and since we consider ourselves national political movements, we should open the door for
If the region develops, it will have impact on the entire Iraq.
Mam Jalal [Talabani] was known as a person who could bring Shiites and Sunnis together on one table and ward off sectarian tensions. Is it likely that I see you, a person believes in Islam in which reconciliation is a virtue, to bring dissenting parties together on one table here in your house or in Erbil?
This surely is a work of virtue. Islam and humanity encourage and call for virtues. Resolving the problems between communities, problems between the region and central
This is ethnic cleansing [in Khurmatu] and we strongly reject it.
Regarding making an initiative, in fact I am taking the initiative and discussing it. But taking an initiative need some preparation, such as bringing beliefs close to one another and finding some solutions to the problems that remain to be preventive. I think we are, in cooperation with the parties you named, very close to opening a door for dialogue between the regional and central governments.
What message do you have for the KRG, Nechirvan Barzani and Qubad Talabani?
I have greetings for Mr Nechirvan and all those in the government. I want to say something openly. If the region develops, it will have impact on the entire Iraq. And if something negative happens in the region, it will also have effect on the entire Iraq. The opposite is also true. If something negative occurs in Baghdad, it will have impact on the region too. That is why I wish success for them. I hope they will find solutions to these problems that have been getting more complicated after the referendum.
Regarding recent events like setting fire to headquarters, breaking and destroying them, we respect peoples’ will. The government should find a quick solution to the problem of
I hope mutual understanding is reached between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen in this region
It is unfortunate and we are saddened to hear that Gorran ministers have withdrawn, speaker of the parliament has resigned and protestors were beaten. These events are dangerous. We are very concerned to see these events. We think the government should take its steps in the direction of restoring complete stability to Kurdistan and reorganize the internal situations of the Kurds such that they are ready to commence the dialogue which should be held with Baghdad.
In his Tuesday news conferences, Haider al-Abadi said he will send the budget for Kurdistan. Yet when the teachers took to the streets, he said they can’t send budget. What do you make of this?
I explained this problem to you. I think these salaries should be sent to the region quickly in order to create stable psychological conditions. People are in need. They can’t live
We hope that the Region is connected to the world in the best way possible in terms of transportation.
Armed forces burnt many homes and there were many violations in Khurmatu and other places after October 16 events, yet no one was arrested or punished. What is your message to the people of Khurmatu?
An investigation should be carried out. I am aware that an inquiry has been launched into this to find out people who started the process of burning and bombing homes. This is ethnic cleansing and we strongly reject it. We hope that Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs in Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu and in every other place live together. But I openly warn against the emergence of some extreme organizations of youth. These might cause problems between Turkmen and Arabs, Arabs and Kurds.
I hope mutual understanding is reached between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen in this region with direct supervision and support from the government, so that some kind of stability is
But the important thing is that the central government is responsible for these federal places.
Do you support lifting the ban on international flights to and from Kurdistan airports? Do you think the ban was humanly and administrative appropriate?
Look, we are really unhappy to see the ban on planes bound to Sulaimani and Erbil in the Region. We hope that the Region is connected to the world in the best way possible in terms of transportation. But we should go back to the origin of the problem again, and that is the existence of a crisis and a problem. Who runs the airports? Who runs border ports? The constitution states that it is the federal authority that runs the air and land ports.
But the region says it is the region that is responsible for these ports. This is the area of contention. I advised brothers urging them to give back the responsibilities of the central
...they are prepared to solve the problem of air and land ports
The Kurdistan Region’s minister of transportation and communication has expressed readiness to solve this problem several times, but there has no response from Baghdad. There is only talk there. Where do you think this will take the Kurdistan Region and Iraq?
I have relations with the regional government, so I confirm what you said that they are prepared to solve the problem of air and land ports. This helped and encouraged us to realize that dialogue between the central and regional governments is necessary to find a final solution to this crisis.
Is what is being said on countering corruption part of the executive work or election campaigning?
Corruption should be confronted, and we don’t accept to see anyone supporting corruption or turning a blind eye on it. We have
Who is corrupt when even corrupt people shout and call for countering corruption?
We don’t discriminate among corrupt people on the basis of religion, sect, nationality or ethnicity. We have special establishments. In terms of media, countering corruption should be done in a calm way, and done with strength in terms of enforcement. I am even against those who have made it possible that some corrupt people speak about confronting corruption. Who is corrupt when even corrupt people shout and call for countering corruption? I call on the government and through you on the region to tackle corruption through institutions, rather than by way of media.
They should take serious and effective steps for doing so, rather than through media campaigns. The issue of corruption and other things
Even the State of Law is not sure whether it will have the biggest faction.
What do you think of the results of next year’s elections? Will the next prime minister be from the Hashd al-Shaabi or someone supported by the Hashd al-Shaabi?
No one knows yet who the next prime minister will be. This depends on the result of the election, ballot boxes and peoples’ opinion. The candidate for prime minister will be from the party with the biggest faction. Can we say what party will have the biggest faction from now? We surely can’t.
What do you think will be the impact of the Hashd al-Shaabi or the person supported by them on the electorate?
Neither I, nor anyone else can know whether the Hashd al-Shaabi will have the biggest faction. Even the State of Law is not sure
I am hurt and sad to hear that the Kurdish nation is in difficult living conditions.
Do you think the party claiming to have defeated ISIS and frozen the referendum will win the majority?
No. Most people think of many questions when they stand before the constitution. The things you mentioned are not enough to win the majority in the election. People, along with their commitment and affiliation, are divided. No one can guarantee victory.
In short, what do you want to say to the Kurdish nation?
I am hurt and sad to hear that the Kurdish nation is in difficult living conditions. It will hurt me if this situation is not resolved. I am worried it will escalate. Now the Kurdish nation enjoys freedom, hope and services. I am concerned that the Kurdish nation will lose this opportunity if a solution is not reached. I hope leaders of the Kurdish nation do not become experts in losing opportunities. There is an invaluable chance before the Kurdish nation and Kurdish leaders should not miss this opportunity. They should make every effort to take it, so that it is not lost.